Families in the Timberlane Regional School District are awaiting a school board vote Tuesday night that will determine whether to allow videoconferencing for remote learning.
The board will vote on a memorandum of understanding between the Timberlane Teachers’ Association and the district, outlining the implementation of videoconferencing and giving staff the option to use it.
As of now, there is no video conferencing in the district, making it an outlier in the statewide shift to online remote learning.
School officials in Timberlane, which serves the towns of Danville, Plaistow, Atkinson, and Sandown, have received emails from parents wondering why their kids weren't allowed to see their teachers and paraprofessionals online, and some parents say the responses from staff and Superintendent Earl Metzler have been confusing and contradictory.
Metzler says he didn't have authority to mandate the use of technology and that he wanted the rollout to be “measured and democratic."
Ryan Richman, president of the Timberlane Teachers’ Association, says the union received a directive from district administration to not use videoconferencing or videotaping, and that the union and district are working together to develop a protocol.
“We need to be looking long-term,” he said. “There is nothing gained by rushing into something haphazardly and then rushing into something and realizing that you’re doing it wrong. We want to make sure when we do start it, that we are doing right by everyone.”
Other districts are weighing the risks of transitioning to videoconferencing, which raises privacy concerns for students and staff. Many have sought parents’ permission to use the technology, either through release forms or via email.
The shift to online remote learning also raises questions about changes in working conditions for teachers’ unions. Richman says their collective bargaining agreement does not prevent videoconferencing, but he wanted to make sure “people’s professionalism and privacy were protected.”
If the school board approves the new agreement between the district and teachers, students could start seeing their teachers' faces on Zoom and Google Classroom later this week.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referenced a directive to "delay the rollout" videoconferencing; Richman says that the directive from the district was "to not use" the technology.